About this Collection
The papers of Alexander Hamilton (ca. 1757-1804), first treasury secretary of the United States, consist of his personal and public correspondence, drafts of his writings (although not his Federalist essays), and correspondence among members of the Hamilton and Schuyler families. The collection, consisting of approximately 12,000 items dating from 1708 to 1917, documents Hamilton's impoverished Caribbean boyhood (scantily); events in the lives of his family and that of his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton; his experience as a Revolutionary War officer and aide-de-camp to General George Washington; his terms as a New York delegate to the Continental Congress (1782-1783) and the Constitutional Convention (1787); and his careers as a New York state legislator, United States treasury secretary (1789-1795), political writer, and lawyer in private practice. Most of the papers date from 1777 until Hamilton's death in 1804. Additional details may be found in the collection's finding aid (HTML and PDF versions).
Among the many correspondents in the papers are John Adams, Angelica Schuyler Church, Henry Clay, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, Rufus King, the Marquis de Lafayette, Pierre Charles L'Enfant, James McHenry, James Monroe, Robert Morris, Timothy Pickering, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Philip Schuyler, Baron von Steuben, Robert Troup, George Washington, James Wilkinson, and Oliver Wolcott, Jr.
The federal government bought the bulk of the Hamilton papers in 1848. They were transferred from the State Department to the Library of Congress in 1904. Additional papers came to the Library of Congress later through gifts and purchases from the Hamilton family and other sources. Papers accumulated through 1981 were scanned from the microfilm edition made that year, and items acquired since were digitized from the originals.
Between 1961 and 1987, Columbia University Press published a twenty-seven-volume edition of the Papers of Alexander Hamilton, edited by Harold C. Syrett. Between 1964 and 1981, Columbia University Law School published a five-volume-edition of Hamilton's legal papers, with Julius Goebel as editor. These two editions have been used as definitive sources in the verification of names and in the dating and identification of manuscripts in the Hamilton Papers at the Library of Congress.
Although this collection is the largest gathering of Alexander Hamilton papers at the Library of Congress, there are significant additional groups of Hamilton letters and other papers in other Library of Congress collections, notably in the George Washington Papers. To identify these collections, consult the bibliography under Related Resources or conduct a search for "Hamilton, Alexander" in the Library of Congress online catalog.
Description of Series
The collection is arranged in eight series as follows.
- General Correspondence, 1734-1804 (Reels 1-21)
Hamilton's correspondence begins with his boyhood employment with merchant Nicholas Cruger in St. Croix and continues through his service in the Revolutionary War, his participation as a New York delegate in the Constitutional Convention, and as treasury secretary. It ends with his last letters to his wife before his death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July 1804.
- Speeches and Writings, 1778-1804 (Reels 21-23)
Drafts, copies, and notes of reports; political essays, speeches, New York legislative acts, and more composed by Hamilton from the American Revolution until his death. Of note is an outline of the speech he delivered at the Constitutional Convention on June 18, 1787; his notes on debates and speeches at New York's ratifying convention, June 1788; drafts of the four major economic reports he wrote as treasury secretary (on public credit, creation of a national bank, establishment of a mint, and development of manufacturing); drafts of the speeches he wrote for George Washington, including Washington's 1796 farewell address; notes he took at New York's constitutional convention of 1787; and drafts of some of his political essays. None of Hamilton's Federalist essays are included.
- Legal File, 1708-1804 (Reels 23-29)
Papers documenting Hamilton's career as a lawyer, which began in 1782. Most of these are ordered alphabetically by case. Some of the landmark cases included in his papers are Rutgers v. Waddington, People v. Croswell, Hylton v. United States, and cases forming the LeGuen v. Gouverneur and Kemble litigation.
- Financial Papers, 1782-1804 (Reel 29)
The financial papers, which form the smallest segment of the collection, consist of two volumes of accounts relating to Hamilton's law practice, and a folder of miscellaneous receipts. Some of the receipts are for money Hamilton paid engineer William Pearce on behalf of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures to provide machinery for manufacturing cotton, 1791-1792.
- Family Papers, 1737-1917 (Reels 29-31)
Letters and other documents of members of the Hamilton, Schuyler, and related families, but not including Alexander Hamilton himself. The series contains letters from Angelica Church (Hamilton's sister-in-law) and Philip Schuyler (Hamilton's father-in-law) to Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton; from Philip Schuyler to his grandson, Philip Hamilton; and from Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton to her sister, Catherine Cochran, and to her son, Philip Hamilton. Through the marriage of Philip Hamilton to Rebecca McLane, several McLane family letters were incorporated into the papers. Most of the nonfamily correspondence of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton relates to the management of her properties and to arrangements for the publication of Hamilton's papers. Scattered letters addressed to Alexander Hamilton (Alexander and Elizabeth's grandson), James A. Hamilton, John Church Hamilton, and to members of the McLane family are also included.
- Miscellany, 1711-1820 (Reels 31-34)
A mixture of original and copied documents. Included are certificates, military papers, legislative papers, newspaper clippings, writings, school exercises attributed to Hamilton, Hamilton family papers including Hamilton's will, printed material, notes on the collection, and more.
- 1998 Addition, 1780-1820
This series, consisting of material acquired by gift and purchase since the collection was microfilmed in 1981, was added to the Hamilton Papers in 1998. Originals include a letter from Nicholas Everton to Hamilton concerning legal matters and a Treasury Department circular. Photocopied material includes letters by Hamilton, miscellaneous images, and a page from a church register recording his marriage.
2017 Addition, 1790-1804
This series consists of fifty-five letters, originally owned by Hamilton descendants, purchased by the Library of Congress at Sotheby's in January 2017. Fifty-one of these, 1790-1804, are from Philip Schuyler (1733-1804) to his son-in-law Alexander Hamilton and daughter Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. The remainder consists of two additional family letters, a letter from Charles Pierre L'Enfant to Hamilton, July 14, 1801, concerning L'Enfant's renovation of City Hall in New York into Federal Hall, and a fragment of a will in Hamilton's hand, [July 1795].
Correspondence, reports, annotated drafts of the Constitution, writings, deeds, agreements, contracts, financial papers, certificates, and printed matter. These items were microfilmed in their original locations before their physical removal to this series. Included here are samples of lace made by women in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The lace was collected for Hamilton as an example of American manufacturing as he wrote his "Report on Manufactures," 1791.